Restless Leg Syndrome and Supplements
Restless Legs Syndrome is a condition that affects about ten percent of the population. The disorder is characterized by an urge to move the legs, usually accompanied by or caused by uncomfortable leg sensations.
People with RLS often have difficulty describing their symptoms. Common terms used to describe the sensations are aching, twitching, tingling, burning, creeping, crawling, itching, flowing, pulling, searing and painful.
Many people experience these sensations in their legs, but the arms or other body regions also can be affected. The symptoms of RLS are generally worse at night, can be brought on by rest and are relieved by standing up or walking around.
I, too, suffer from RLS occasionally. I’ve had periods of my life where the condition seemed to worsen (probably stress-related). Some of the following suggestions may work for you, for others maybe not. For me, the lifestyle changes I made to help with my insomnia also helped with my RLS. I still have a sleepless night or a night with RLS, but they are far less frequent.
Treatment begins by dealing with any underlying medical condition that may be cause the symptoms. Many times the cause is unknown, but it can be associated with neurological disorders, diabetes, stress and pregnancy.
The serious sleep loss can not only lead to drowsiness, but could lead to depression and accidental injuries as well. In recent years, researchers have discovered that iron, folate or vitamin E levels are often low in RLS sufferers and supplementation can frequently help. For example, when iron deficiency is the cause, taking iron supplements can significantly reduce the symptoms of RLS.
“We know that iron deficiency is involved because every condition that produces iron deficiency, such as anemia or pregnancy, increases the risk of RLS dramatically,” says Richard Allen, PhD, a diplomat on the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a founder of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. In fact, based on studies of hospital patients, about 40 percent of people with anemia had RLS and about 20 percent to 40 percent of pregnant women have RLS.
Another way researchers know that iron plays a role is iron-deficient patients’ response to iron supplementation.
“Then when the iron deficiency is corrected, the RLS often remits,” Dr. Allen says.
Some people with RLS, however, have normal iron levels. Researchers say that’s not a reason to discount iron as an underlying cause of their RLS. Studies indicate that the problem is the brains of RLS patients may not absorb iron normally.
Some other treatment options which may relieve pain include leg massages, hot baths, heat or icepacks, aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers, and the elimination of caffeine. As well, regular sleep habits and exercise, especially earlier in the day, will help people enjoy more restful sleep.
Magnesium and Calcium
Cramps in the lower limbs, restless leg syndrome and sleeplessness can be eased by the addition of calcium and magnesium to the diet. Magnesium is more easily absorbed by the body in the form of dolomite, or with the addition of calcium.
Magnesium helps to support a strong immune system and maintains normal muscle and nerve function. It is also known to be involved in every metabolism and protein synthesis and is needed for over three hundred biochemical reactions in the body, so it is very important.
One of the benefits of magnesium is its muscle relaxing properties. The heart is a muscle and high blood pressure is often caused by the heart not relaxing sufficiently on its outward (diastolic) beat. There is increasing interest in the role magnesium can play in managing hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
What to Avoid
You should avoid things that can make symptoms of RLS worse:
Caffeine, Chocolate, coffee, tea, and some soft drinks contain caffeine. Although it may seem to help overcome daytime sleepiness, caffeine usually only delays or masks RLS symptoms, and often makes them worse.
Some types of over-the-counter and prescription medicines can also make RLS symptoms worse.
- Anti-depressants (most of them)
- Anti-nausea medicines
- Anti-psychotic medicines
Good supplements to take are iron, folic acid, co-enzyme Q10, extracts of ginko biloba and garlic tablets.
Acupuncture and magnet therapy are also worth trying to help with restless legs syndrome.
If you are taking prescription medication, always consult your health care professional before taking supplements.